About Dr. Marshack’s Blog

Dr. Marshack’s blog postings are short and timely. She shares tips that make your complex relationships work better. She also posts questions because she wants to hear from you and share ideas. Bringing people together to help each other is one of her missions.


Note: Some of the older blogs posts have been imported from a previous website and may have broken links. Try the “search” function in the sidebar to find linked pages that appear to be missing.

PTSD and OTRD are Common, But Not Mandatory

A few days ago, I found an interesting article in New York Times about a veteran without Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. She believed something was wrong with her, as she’s been through multiple traumatic events (deployed to combat zones twice and losing her husband in an avalanche in Colorado) and yet, she wasn’t suffering from PTSD.

Many people wrongly assume that PTSD is inevitable for anyone exposed to trauma or that having PTSD would validate military experience. In reality, only 8% of American citizens have PTSD, while in veterans the percentage is a bit higher (11% – 20%).

The author of this article had taken part in a study regarding a potential treatment for PTSD. The fact that researchers are studying healthy people without PTSD, but who were traumatized is amazing. It certainly makes more sense than only studying those with PTSD. You are more likely to find successful treatment this way.

While different, there are a few similarities between PTSD and Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Disorder (OTRD).

PTSD or OTRD are not inevitable for anyone exposed to trauma. From my years of experience, there are a number of factors which help avoid them, such as absence of childhood trauma and having a close circle of family and friends.

Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Disorder (OTRD)

I am happy to be part of our MeetUp group, “Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD”, because one way our group survives and copes with OTRD, is BY offering  community and open discussions about the stress of this lifestyle. There are many members of my group who do not suffer OTRD and who have found ways to maintain a healthy life and distance themselves from the stress.

I wrote an article about surviving unremitting grief. There is the grief over the lost dream of a relationship with an emphatic partner. There is the grief from chronic verbal abuse. There is the grief of raising your children in the chaos of the relationship. There is the grief of never being able to have a voice in your life.

If you want to work 1-1 with a therapist and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. You can also go to my website to schedule through the online calendar. Online therapy is also available, if that works best for your busy schedule.

Living with an “Aspie” Partner

Relationships are hard, in general. Throw out all empathy from one of the partners and you get a whole new mix.

Autism Spectrum Relationships

Understanding the Neurotypical – Asperger Relationship is difficult. I wrote a blog about Empathy 101 that expands on this subject of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Neurotypical persons in relationships with those with “Asperger’s Syndrome” expect and need empathy, but they don’t receive it from their ASD partners. This makes them feel alone, depressed, and socially isolated. They suffer from numerous stress-related chronic illnesses, because no one really understands what they’re going through.

If you’re a member of our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup community, you probably understand this or you even live in similar environments.

I see it every day in the group and I’m grateful we built this community together to support each other and share our relationship struggles.

One member said:

“I am really discouraged today. I have come to realize that I am married to a man that I will never really know. How do I deal with that?”

While another followed in a similar tone:

“I want/need to find another way…if I engage with him I lose myself, if I disengage from him I am not myself…”

One of the most important things to know about your “Aspie” partner is the quality of empathy is totally absent. Understanding this will help you better navigate your life together and you will be able to direct your energy to better take care of yourself. You are in charge and this thought can feel good.

So how can you help your relationship?

 

The Art of Detachment in an ASD/NT Relationship

  • Stop taking it all personally.
  • Stop worrying if you’ve covered all the bases.
  • Stop beating yourself up for your flaws.
  • Stop expecting more from your AS spouse than he or she can give.

 

Emotional Self-Care

Autism Spectrum RelationshipsDo all of the healthy feel-good things you can fit into your day. It can be very easy to focus all of your attention on your loved one and leave nothing left over for yourself. Be sure to take time to recharge. In order to give to others, you must give back to yourself. Get involved in what you love doing. Do you like reading or kayaking? Give yourself time for it this weekend.

I also wrote an article with 15 reasons why self-compassion is better than self-confidence. Take a look at it – you might find it useful.

 

Education

Your partner has just been diagnosed with High Functioning Autism? Find out what you should expect regarding this form of autism. It will help you to better understand the disorder and find ways to cope with it rather than resent it. Find local support groups and engage with other people from your community who are having the same pains as you do.

I am launching a new website soon, called “ASPERGER SYNDROME & RELATIONSHIPS: Life with an Adult on the Autism Spectrum”. I’m creating a local and international community where iit is safe to share your problems and you can get the support you need. I will also be guiding your healing process through our community. Don’t hesitate to join us once the website is launched (sign up tfor our newsletter to stay up to date).

Because those with Asperger lack empathy, they inadvertently cause others to feel ignored, unappreciated and unloved. Many cope by coming up with an explanation of why life has turned out the way it has. But these explanations change nothing. Everything you talk about should be about what you’re feeling or hearing or seeing or smelling right now. Don’t analyze. Don’t blame others or yourself. Don’t judge either. No complaining. No explaining.

Your loved one may already be meeting with someone regarding their disorder, but you may also need additional support as an NT  loved one. If you believe you are ready to seek the assistance of a health care professional and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office or  schedule an appointment at my website calendar. For busy schedules I also offer online therapy.

 

The Community Method Creates Change and Healing

Psychologists and journalists have it all wrong.

Why is it that even the professionals think that focusing on what is wrong in the world, or in our personal lives, will make things better? David Brooks, a New York Times columnist questions this concept in his May 16, 2019 column, “The Big Story You Don’t Read About.”

He says, “Too many journalists refuse to consider local social repair and community-building as news. It seems too goody-goody, too “worthy,” too sincere. It won’t attract eyeballs. That’s dead wrong.”

Psychologists make the same mistake with our clients. We spend a lot of time going over everything that makes people unhappy, in the misguided illusion that this preoccupation with grief will lead to answers. Don’t get me wrong, we need to grieve, to release the tensions and the sadnesses and the anger associated with life’s losses. But we also need to “repair,” as David says. We need to rebuild our lives with the strengths we have gained from our grief.

If all we do is focus on what’s wrong, it can leave us feeling hopeless, helpless, and depressed. As Brooks puts it, “People who consume a lot of media of this sort sink into this toxic vortex — alienated from people they don’t know, fearful about the future. They are less mobilized to take action, not more.” This is never truer in our personal lives too.

Two wrongs don’t make a right. Sure, take a look at what’s weighing you down. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself permission to grieve. Mull over the problem you are having, talk about it, write in your journal. But then take a pause from all of that negativity to review what you can do about the problem. Start living a purposeful life.

It’s about community.

Autism Community When I popped open my messages from my Meetup group, Asperger Syndrome:” Partners & Family of Adults with ASD. I was rewarded by yet another deeply moving string of messages on my website. The website is a private place for members to discuss their worries and fears. They ask others for opinions and support. They share their losses and their successes.

Our group is a unique forum for Neuro-Typicals (NTs) who feel alone with the stresses and strains of life with autistics. They feel embarrassed and guilty for even complaining about their problems, as if complaining about someone with autism is somehow wrong or unkind or a terrible sin.

So, I decided to set that straight ten years ago, when I founded the group on Meetup. I thought it was time to bring this problem into the open and shine new light on the painful interactions that occur behind closed doors, within homes where an NT lives with an “Aspie.”   (“Aspie” is a brief form of “Asperger Syndrome,” and was coined by autistics).

Since that first time I hosted a small group for lunch in Portland, our group has grown to over 3500 members world-wide. We are represented on every continent, wherever NTs can access the Internet and reach out to their international community, a community that is there for them when they need to know they are not alone.

Rise above the chaos

The Community Method Creates Change and HealingIn fact, our Meetup group is proof that community building leads to personal and social repair, the kind that can change the world by healing hearts.

Below are a few excerpts from the heartfelt email string on our website that caught my attention (without names or identifying information to protect the members). I am blessed to have these powerful people, who each day are facing their problems with grace. There may be no immediate solution to autism or to the heartache it brings to the people who love autistics, but there are answers to taking back your life by rising above the chaos.

A Meetup Member describes her grief over her ASD/NT marriage:

“First I grieved what I thought we had. Next I grieved what we really had. After that I grieved what should never have been. Then I grieved that I would never know what was real. This was followed by grieving all of the people I thought were friends, but were not. I then had to grieve that I had lost myself.

“I am building a new person. I still have tough days, though things are better. I am grateful for this group.”

*****

After a few members commented, Dr. Kathy’s responded:

“Going through the grief helps you to know the truth of who you really are. And you are loved. Taking back your life requires grieving and letting go of false beliefs. Freedom is just around the corner.”

*****

A few more comments and then a member responded:

“Thank u Dr Kathy. U have helped me enormously thru this most difficult journey.”

*****

After several more supportive members commented, another mention from Dr. Kathy to the group:

“Yes, you are an amazing group of powerful Souls. You understand and are brave and kind enough to be there for others. A day does not go by that I don’t grieve for the destruction of my family, but somehow my authentic self is stronger than grief. I no longer just make it through the day. I actually feel free as I soar above the chaos. The chaos isn’t me. The grief isn’t me either. I am so much more. And so are all of you.”

One final member comment:

“Thank you Dr. Kathy. It’s refreshing to know that the ‘chaos isn’t me.’ I have also lost my entire family. I was holding on to escape more Grief. The truth is I prolonged it. This next chapter I get to choose, and thanks to you and all those who go before me, I know it’s true.”

*****

Know the truth of who you are.

If you have a life with an adult on the autism spectrum, . . . if are ready to know the truth of who you are, . . . if you are ready to be part of a community that focuses on what works instead of the problem, . . . if you enjoy helping others do the same, . . . then I hope you join us at Asperger Syndrome:” Partners & Family of Adults with ASD.

 

ADHD and Sleeping Better

ADHD and Sleeping BetterIn sleep deprived ADHD households, 57% of parents sleep less than six hours per night. Most children suffering from attention deficit disorders often struggle to fall asleep or to stay asleep. More than 50% of children are waking up to 4 times during the night and are fully awake before 6am, according to an article published in ADDitude magazine.

You don’t outgrow ADD. Children suffering from ADHD and sleeping problems will carry their difficulties into their adulthood. Studies have shown that not getting enough rest can worsen the symptoms, leading to loss of emotional control and irritation.

I’m regularly available for consultations and you should always get professional help. I also wrote about how much sleep your brain needs in a previous blog post. Below you can find few tips that I have gathered along the way and you can try on your own to help you sleep better:

Sleep Study

When are you going to bed? Are you actually going to bed when you say you are? How many times are you waking up during the night?

Track these patterns to better understand your sleeping problem. You can easily find apps that are doing it for you or you can go with the classic pen and notebook. Check your notes regularly as you try different methods of improving your sleep to see if they are helping or not.

Less Caffeine, More Sport

We all enjoy a good coffee, but if it’s within 2 or 3 hours before your bed time, it’s a sure way to keep you awake. Many people don’t drink coffee after 1pm. Similarly to this, naps are a great way to energize your body, but are not beneficial to an ADHD person as they are taking away precious tiredness from your night sleep.

Increasing the level of activity has proven to help. So take your dog for longer walks or walk when you can, instead of driving everywhere.

Avoid Sleep Traps

Playing Angry Birds under the covers, hiding from your partner, is a big NO. Mindlessly scrolling on social media will keep you awake and affect your mental health in the long term. The blue light from the screen is the biggest intruder in the night. Don’t spend time in from of a TV or a computer after 9pm.

Let the Night Come

Instead of becoming a scrolling slave, prepare your brain and body for sleep. Take a warm, relaxing shower, listen to a podcast, meditate and relax your muscles or turn on a shooting music playlist.

Help your racing brain wind down before bed. Ask help from your family to keep you on track.

Consistent Routine

Create your own waking up and winding down routine. It’s important to have a routine to give your brain a little nudge to get ready to wake up or to go to sleep. Putting a daily clock alarm, an hour before bed, will give you a gentle push to get ready for the end of the day.

Once you discover what works best for you, do it every day consistently. This will increase the quality of your sleep by allowing your body to get into a daily rhythm, something beneficially especially for children and adults with ADHD.

 

ADHD is always awake, but that doesn’t mean you need to constantly suffer from restless nights and exhausting mornings.

Share your experience with our community and let us know what worked for you!

High-quality sleep is essential for optimal health. I’ve discovered that Neuro Emotional Technique is very effective for clearing stress and tension that is keeping you awake at night. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Online therapy is also available, if that works best for your busy schedule.

Be Consciously Happier!

In the Declaration of Independence, the founding fathers listed our Rights as “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”? The word pursuing involves obtaining something that you don’t have yet.

 

Be Consciously Happier

I have good news for you: you have control over your happiness! According to Eric Barker (in this article from “Barking Up The Wrong Tree”) 40% of our happiness is within our control. I know it’s not as easy as it sounds, but it is a conscious choice. By doing the right things, you can create good habits and improve your levels of happiness with the 40% that is yours to use.

So what can you do? Here are 3 things I gleaned from Barker’s research:

You should talk about your feelings.

No man or woman is an island and what one thing do happy people have in common? Strong relationships.

Look around and discover who is in your support network. Who is rooting for you and who can you do activities with? Write names down. It’s good to remember the people you have around you and who are forming your inner circle.

Your social life needs nurturing for a happier life. As a therapist I’ve observed first-hand how much better my clients feel when they’ve had the opportunity to talk about their concerns. It’s interesting that scientific research is backing that up. According to a study from the University of California (“Putting Feelings Into Words Produces Therapeutic Effects in the Brain” from 2007), describing emotions like grief and disappointment can put the brakes on brain activity that generates those feelings. By using MRI scans researchers saw changes in the brain when participants described the scary or sad faces they saw.

Build healthy habits and say no to unhelpful ones.

Remember the terrible things that happened in the past, but now seem funny? Laugh and laugh hard. Your brain loves humor! The more you laugh at life, the better you will feel.

Start building your life around good habits, one at a time, with baby steps. If something helps you relax and increases your productivity, do more of that. Make a plan, have a goal and then reward yourself.

Practice less self-criticism and more self-assurance. Self-criticism can easily lead to a bad mood. Beating yourself up over things you cannot control won’t make you be or feel better. Liking yourself will.

Try to practice self-gratitude daily for the next week and come back to tell me how you feel.

Get involved more.

Don’t give your brain time to laze around and think of all the things you are not good enough at, but instead start doing more to obtain more results.

Now is the best time to take care of your hobbies and your passions. Your life goals and what you decide to do about them have a big impact on your life satisfaction and therefore on your happiness. You alone are in charge of it.

Those who place high priority on family life are also happier, than those who place priority on their work or money alone. So ask the help of your family and do activities together.

 

Never give up on finding a treatment that works for you and your happiness. You matter and you are important. One type of treatment may work for one person, whereas a different treatment will help another person better. As a qualified psychologist and N.E.T practitioner, I’ve seen many clients respond well to alternative, holistic treatments. These include dietary supplements, mind-body therapies, chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, massage, movement therapies, specialized diets, and neuro-emotional technique.

There are ups and downs in the process of living. Sometimes our problems turn out to be gifts that provide us opportunities to grow as individuals. If you’d like to explore your options and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.